I grew up in the ‘50s overexposed to television on Saturday mornings long before I ever bet on a horse on a Saturday afternoon. So whenever I want to poke fun at something, I drag out old cartoon or sci-fi characters to fit the situation.
When I did get started, there was no Sunday racing in New York in the course of a nine-month season. There were only two-horse exotic wagers, and every bettor had the same opportunity to come out ahead if he could pick a reasonable percentage of winners with positive performance records. Reward was directly proportional to risk.
Racing was then a gambling/entertainment business based on a sport, with a monopoly on legal gambling outside Las Vegas. Every player, however, still had a sporting chance. There have always been a minority of winning players that are simply smarter, bolder, better-informed, and more skillful than their competition, but back then, many casual bettors like myself were able to keep their bankrolls intact from the middle of March through the beginning of December.
Today’s higher takeouts have lowered payoffs, and even though opportunities for greater financial reward have evolved through multiple horse exotic wagers, success with these more complicated types of bets generally requires one to risk more than the average casual player's comfort level allows. Some days when a Trifecta or a Pick Four eludes me, I wish I could return to those days of yesteryear with a hearty hi-yo Vigors, away.
In the popular future-based TV series called "Star Trek," space-travelling earthlings encountered an unrelenting warrior race called Klingons who developed a technology known as cloaking that made their space ships invisible. Ever since I was a kid racing has behaved like Klingons; cloaking themselves from viewing on television and now making themselves virtually invisible to on-line bettors. Even when racing can actually get somebody interested enough to bet on-line, there's a good chance he won't be able to bet all tracks he wants from a single ADW account, or be able to view a given race live.
What is also invisible to some who bet for entertainment today is the competitive edge enjoyed by the highest volume bettors who -- win or lose -- get back from between one and twelve cents on every dollar they wager. Rebating this 1% of bettors who generate at least 10% of the total amount wagered is frequently characterized as simply "good business practice" on the part of tracks, ADWs, horse owner groups, and these bettors of at least $1 million per year known as “whales.”
In my opinion the most insidious aspect of the game is the high takeouts imposed on all players. Giving only very preferred players a slightly lower takeout while the rest of the players struggle seems far less than ideal to me. Small players can become big players, if given the push that rebates provide. The practice of rebating cannot continue to be restricted to high-volume bettors. An extension of this situation occurs when tracks and whales join forces to keep Pick Six winnings out of the hands of the small players by maintaining a $2 minimum for each combination. Racing should be a big tent with alternatives for all players; not unrelentingly stacked against the little guy.
Some HANA members are now questioning whether lower direct takeout for all is actually attainable and, even if rebates are made available to smaller players by all ADWs, whether they will match those to whales. HANA’s existing priorities were predicated on the idea that racing's popularity and share of the North American gambling dollar would increase by enabling more people to fully participate on a level playing field.
HANA wants and needs feedback to be sure that our unified voice mirrors our membership. Let us know what YOU think.
This opinion was submitted by a California member of HANA.